It's becoming harder and harder to allow historic structures to sit empty in this town anymore.
It wasn't all that long ago that a lot of buildings in downtown Savannah just sat. Empty, in some cases in varying degrees of disrepair. Sure, developers were snooping around kicking tires here and there, but not too many were willing to drop the kind of investment needed to really bring the history of downtown Savannah back to life.
The Grey on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was among the first to truly refurbish an old space. Since then, a number of others have followed suit. The latest set to open sits at the corner of Price and Broughton streets, and it's the latest from the Gaslight Group - East End Provisions.
If you've been around long enough, you remember it as Juarez Mexican Restaurant. If you've been around longer than that, you remember a way-ahead-of-its-time high-end European restaurant. Juarez, though, drew the biggest gasp when it closed for good after 22 years on the far east end of Broughton. That story made headlines. Then the property sat empty for a good while - in desperate need of repairs and a makeover, frankly.
"We came in and looked at it," says Brian Huskey, owner of the Gaslight Group, which also owns B. Matthew's Eatery, Blowin' Smoke Southern Cantina and others here in Savannah. "We thought there was some potential."
Once the decision was made to move forward with the building, Brian, his staff and Linn Gresham, a local designer, went to work.
"They spent a couple of days at the Georgia Historical Society trying to find out whatever they could about the building," Brian says. "Then Linn went to work. She is so good at what she does, it all kind of fell together."
They found some photos. They found a little bit of information. What they determined was that building had been an old grocery. A provisions store. They sold biscuits, drinks and other simple items. A concept was born.
Brian tells me about $800,000 has gone into revamping the space, most of it cosmetic. The bones were largely intact in the building. The front room is now dominated by a bar with built-in stools. There are a few tables; the back wall adorned by a massive mural of what that property looked like circa 1900.
Plenty of seating in the back as well, including a room for private functions. "We should be able to seat about 130," Brian says.
Downstairs there's a spot to hang your hat, have a few drinks or watch a ball game. Lot 33, as they're calling it, will have a different menu, different hours, darts or perhaps a shuffleboard table, and some seating for a full afternoon or evening of fun.
The menu features a wood fire grill. "We don't know of any others downtown," Brian says, "and we hope to take full advantage of that on our menu."
As of this writing, the menu is a work in progress. It will feature seafood, flatbreads, sandwiches. I spotted a seafood mac 'n' cheese dish on a menu I got a quick look at. Brian says the goal at East End, as it is with all of his restaurants, is to make the menu feel approachable.
"We don't see the need to compete with celebrity chefs or with large chains," Brian says. "We want to offer the kinds of price points that will bring out the neighborhood."
That is important to note. Dining options on the east end of downtown aren't as plentiful as they are, say, four blocks to the west. Meanwhile, the neighborhood between Price and Broad streets to the east continues to grow. That's the target audience for East End Provisions. There will be no dishes you can't pronounce there.
Brian may or may not disagree, but it would be safe to say his Gaslight Group has figured out how to appeal to the masses. The crowd at brunch at B. Matthew's or lunch at The 5 Spot will tell you that. Now you've got something new to try on the east end of downtown.
East End Provisions expects to be open around Nov. 10, give or take a couple of days. We'll keep you posted.
See you on TV,
EAST END PROVISIONS
Address: 420 E. Broughton St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday; opening early November
Not too late to join us for Savannah Food & Wine Festival from Nov. 6 to 12. Highlights include the Secret Savannah Speakeasy on Nov. 9, BBQ Masters on Nov. 10 or Taste of Savannah on Nov. 12. A lot of events will sell out. Don't delay. Get tickets at savannahfoodandwinefest.com.
Hard to believe Atlantic is celebrating one year at the corner of Victory Drive and Drayton Street. In honor of that occasion, they will be offering a week of fun: Nov. 7-11 will feature different wine specials and Chef Lauren's newest menu. Not to be missed.
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Who's got the best Cuban sandwich in Savannah? I've spent over a year researching. I will share the answer with you on "Eat It and Like It with Jesse Blanco" at 7:30 a.m. Nov. 5 on WSAV. Set your DVR now. Here's a hint: Mayonnaise gets you disqualified.
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